Friday, September 25, 2015

6 Things We Learned In Chincoteague

We honeymooned in Chincoteague Island 5 years ago. It’s our favorite place in the world, partly because of that reason, but mostly because it’s just an awesome place to vacation. It’s a beautiful, laid back town with enough to do to make it interesting, but not too much to do, which helps you just relax and enjoy the company of the person you’re with. 

This year before we left we decided to sign off of all social media for the entire time we were there. A complete break from instagram, facebook, twitter, messenger, snapchat, pinterest, and email. No notifications, no checking, no peeking…heck we even got rid of some of the apps on our phones and hid the rest so there wasn’t a chance of some notification popping up. It’s strange to take a step back and realize that our modern society is so attached to a completely voluntary service that 90% of the time we don’t use or enjoy.
Not only was it the probably the best vacation we’ve had since our honeymoon, we learned a lot about ourselves and our relationship when we unplugged and took to the beach. Here’s what we found:

1. Don’t compare you and your life to someone else and their life.

No social media means we didn’t have to see who’s having babies, who’s at a sunnier beach than us (see #2), who is making more money, who owns a house, who has a better job, who has this, who has that…who cares! I’m me, you’re you. You’re you, we’re us. That’s how it’s supposed to be. I’m all for aspiring to be a better person, it’s actually my job as a coach. But as a coach it’s my role to help people become better versions of themselves, not to turn into someone else. When we are constantly barraged with pictures and stories of what people post about their lives, we get this false sense of their seemingly more perfect life, when in fact we all know how easy it is to only post our best selfies, our most epic stories, our shiniest moments, all while shading our flaws, shortcomings, and failures. And let’s say you do know someone who has everything you think you want in life, why are you watching them live their life at the expense of living and enjoying yours? This goes for both individuals and couples. When you clear your thoughts of virtual life-highlight-reels and sit back and look at your life and your life together couple, it’s so much better than you can imagine.

2. It’s not about the weather, but who you spend the day with.

We had one sunny day at the beach of the 6 days we were there. All of the other days it was either rainy, or cloudy and extremely windy. That didn’t matter. We still went to the beach every day, set up our chairs (and normally some sort of wind/sandstorm barrier), and talk/yelled over the wind while watching the turbulent ocean in front of us. When you’re with the person you were made to be with, it doesn’t matter what situation you’re in, you’re going to have a good time. We people watched, talked about the future, sang together, made up jokes and games, took pictures - I’d do gymnastics tricks in an attempt to impress Rachel and she’d flirt back...It was like we were dating again or on our honeymoon (neither of us had smart phones throughout all of those times too). The weather could have been better, but it didn’t affect our time together. 
Bad weather can be a lot of things for different couples. When we were first married it was the daily struggles of Rachel's CF. Then one year into our marriage it was the hurricane of her lung transplant and recovery. More recently it's been the ups and downs of job, money, housing, volunteering, and general life issues that come along the way in any marriage. Throughout it all we've come to understand that the perfect day has nothing to do with what happens, but who you're with. 

3. Find something new to love about the person you’re with.

I’m a very competitive person, Rachel is not. I would have agreed with that statement before she introduced me to the dice game, Yahtzee. After winning the first time I played it, I learned that this woman has a competitive side that is better not to cross. It’s also extremely attractive, but that’s beside the point.  We played every day at lunch while I grilled at the hotel we were staying, and we’d play every night by the bay after dinner. We played more Yahtzee in 6 days than most people play in their lives. I loved seeing her do Ray Lewis’ signature “Squirrel dance” when she’d win, or give me a look of death when I’d win by 2 or 3 points. But most of all I loved that after 5 years I saw yet another side of my wife, and I can’t wait to love something new about her in 5 more.

4. Always be on your honeymoon.

One cloudy day we went around to the local shops and found an antique shop run by this elderly couple. When we were leaving the man was taking over the register to give his wife a break. He struck up a conversation with us and laughed when we told him we had been married for 5 years.

“Oh my, that’s a long time…” he joked.

“How long have you all been married?” I asked.

“Sixty-three years now.” He said. “And we’re still on our honeymoon.”

I’ve heard that once before, and it was from my father in reference to my mother. That’s something I love about relationships that have lasted as long as this couple and my parents: they just keep loving each other like newlyweds, long after the actually honeymoon phase. And as a relatively newly married couple by comparison, it’s inspiring to know that this is not a passing blissful peak in a marriage. With the right nurturing and care, a relationship can most certainly be just new after 63 years. In fact, my #3 on this list came from the older gentlemen when he told me the best thing about his marriage has been learning something new about his wife every day.

Oh and before leaving I told him to watch out, we were going to catch up to them some day.

5. Celebrate Everything

While on vacation we celebrated 8 years since our first date and the night I asked Rachel to be my girlfriend. We always celebrate this anniversary along with our wedding, her transplant, the animals' birthdays...heck, we even exchange little Hannakah and Kwanza presents just for fun. Making a big deal out of little things is kind of a large part in our relationship. We know all too well that life is too short not to enjoy every little moment. I was away as a leader at Younglife camp for our wedding anniversary over the summer, so this trip was our late, but not neglected, celebration of 5 years of marriage.
Another thing to celebrate while here was Rachel's personal accomplishment of climbing to the top of the famous Assateague Lighthouse. The trip was close to 200 steps up a tiny spiral staircase up to a windy lookout over the two islands. It was the most amazing thing to watch as Rachel climbed up landing after landing of the winding stairs without getting out of breath. 4 years ago she would never have made it up even two of the landings without having to stop, cough, and catch her breath for a few minutes. And she definitely would never have made it to the top before having her new lungs. We always take time to acknowledge and celebrate in some small way any time we experience something that wouldn't have been possible before the transplant. 
It shouldn't take a transplant for all of us to celebrate all the accomplishments, triumphs, and anniversaries, no matter how small. 

6. Relationships run better when there’s no screen in between.

In addition to not having an outlet to view people to compare ourselves to, eliminating social media also meant eliminating an extra person from any given moment. We no longer had to wait for the other person to finish a text to talk or have to ask “what are you looking at?” only to be answered with something like “Oh so-and-so’s asthmatic dog” or “A meme about Elmo’s upcoming gender reassignment.” (Minus 1 if you googled that last one.) We had each other’s full attention and knew that every word, laugh, smile, and thought for those 6 days was shared with the other person. By the end of the week we were talking about things for much longer and on a deeper level, discussing future plans without distractions or comparisons, and laughing until we cried at jokes we would simultaneously make after seeing the same things happen together. 

Now that we’re back, the phones are still "off the grid." I know for our jobs and keeping up with family and friends some we’ll get back on eventually, but we’re really not in any hurry. And once we do start using social media again, we’ve both already come up with personal guidelines for ourselves in order to extend this feeling we have together and prevent any outside influence from spoiling our pursuit of a perpetual honeymoon. Hopefully something here will inspire you to do the same. It doesn’t have to include a beach trip, but it definitely helps. It also doesn’t have to be anything remotely like our experience, because it’s your life, and your experience. 

Just try turning off the noise to find exactly what that looks like for you and the person you love. 

P.S. To be true to my earlier statement about not comparing yourself to others and how easy it is to post only the photogenic shots from a are the less than perfect, but just as fun parts of our vacation: 


Now X out of this window and go talk to someone's face for a bit.  

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